Tom McCoy’s New York Times crossword, “Retronyms”—Amy’s write-up
Retronyms are terms like acoustic guitar, which were needed only after the original noun expanded to cover a newer concept (here, electric guitar). The theme entries are retronyms clued with what made the new terms necessary:
- 21a. [Dialect that was called 22-Across before the age of colonialism], BRITISH ENGLISH.
33a. [System that was called 34-Across before the Internet], SNAIL MAIL.
35a. [Concept that was called 36-Across before research into the square root of negatives], REAL NUMBER.
52a. [Food that was called 53-Across before Twizzlers and the like], BLACK LICORICE. Yuck.
78a. [Fastener that was called 80-Across before a rounded design was implemented], FLATHEAD SCREW.
96a. [Entertainment category that was called 97-Across before talkies], SILENT FILM. I feel like silent movie is more familiar but my husband disagrees.
98a. [Object that was called 100-Across before electronic documents], PAPER COPY.
109a. [Activity that was called 111-Across before pesticides], ORGANIC FARMING.
Tom must’ve meticulously laid out the grid so that there was always a clue number in the first square of the original noun. This elevates the theme above merely cluing each retronym without that angle.
A couple of dupes jumped out at me: 10d IT IS cross-referenced to 5d IS IT, plus 55a SAY IT (another IT! Along with 101a IT’LL DO and 92a ‘TIS, which entails both IT and IS) and 77d SAYS ME (see also 79d TRY ME). Can we get a SAY IT IS ME in here?
- Seven more things:
54a. [Skimobile, informally], SLED. “Skimobile”? That’s new to me.
32d. [Portrays feelings], EMOTES. Yay! A clue without “ham” or “overact” in it.
18a. [Opponents of the Protestant Reformation], PAPISTS. Uh, people? That term is listed in the three dictionaries I checked as “chiefly derogatory,” “offensive,” and “usually disparaging.” Either don’t include this word at all in the crossword, or allude to it being likely to offend some Catholics. Not sure the historical clue provides you any cover here.
49d. [Target demographic for Hot Wheels], BOYS. Are you fricking kidding me? I quizzed my husband on the clue, and he said TOTS. (We would also accept KIDS.) Do you know how many damn Hot Wheels and Matchbox cars I had as a kid? I know I’m not the only girl who liked playing with cars. When there’s been so much attention given over the last decade or two to the stupid gendering of toys, it’s really not wise to promote the concept in a crossword.
96d. [“Brown Sugar” band, with “the”], STONES. Really, no allusion to this not being the band’s actual name? They’re the Rolling Stones, not just the Stones.
75d. [Purported rural shenanigan], COW TIPPING. The “purported” in the clue is apt. I heard plenty of talk about cow tipping during college in Northfield, Minnesota (town with a “Cows, Colleges, and Contentment” motto), but I don’t know of any evidence that students actually did this.
Some of the other longish fill—CAPRI PANTS, SUIT AND TIE, “THAT HURTS”—is terrific.
Four stars from me.
Jeffrey Wechsler’s Los Angeles Times crossword, “Lend Me Your Ears”—Andy’s review
Insert “EAR” into common phrases, hilarity ensues:
- 22a, GOODYEAR GUMDROPS [Candy served on a corporate blimp?]. Goody gumdrops.
- 36a, SWEARING BANDS [Often censored musical groups?]. Swing bands
- 67a, DREARY MARTINI [Rather uninspired cocktail?]. Dry martini.
- 95a, MOBILE APPEARS [What happens at the southern terminus of Interstate 65?]. Mobile apps.
- 115a, TWO PEARLY TISSUES [Pair of lustrous Kleenex?]. Two-ply tissues.
- 15d, NEAREST OF VIPERS [First asp most likely to bite when the group is disturbed?]. Nest of vipers.
- 42d, BEARING CHERRIES [How sundaes are often served?]. Bing cherries.
I thought the theme was very well executed. Seven interesting base phrases, seven relatively funny theme answers, and seven well written clues.
As far as I can tell, this is the longest a Sunday LAT has taken me all year. Jeffrey tends to write LAT Friday puzzles (the hardest themed puzzles of the LAT week), and he’s well known for difficult cluing and wide open grids. In hindsight, it doesn’t look like there was anything that should’ve made this puzzle particularly challenging; I guess I just wasn’t on Jeffrey’s wavelength today.
The fill was solid (AMAH and AAR aside), though I did note an unusual amount of LBJ trivia with both 4d, MOYERS [Press secretary under LBJ] and 43d, CARO [LBJ biographer Robert] popping up. Occasionally Jeffrey’s puzzles will feature particularly unusual partial entries, but the only one that stood out to me was 96d, BE AWAY [Leave town for a bit].
That’s it from me. Until next time!
Evan Birnholz’s Washington Post puzzle “Naming Rights” – Gareth’s review
I don’t solve a lot of Sunday puzzles. I find the themes get repetitive, and often the fill is noticeably worse than in dailies.
The theme involves two part words the second part of which is a short form of a first name. The full first name is instead substituted in the grid, and the clue is re-imagined to be referring to a famous person who uses that name. EXPAT refers to Patrick “Pat” Stewart no longer being himself. Similarly, WERERICH is imagined to be a group of people turning into Richard “Rich” Simmons. That wouldn’t be near the top of my list of famous Simmons’s, but I guess it helps spread the pool of culture drawn from. Anyway, you get the idea. The weakest part of many of the answers is that the clues are quite tortured to achieve a semblance of sense.
The fill is far better than most Sundays I’ve solved. Not much clunked, and there were colourful bits like NBAJAM and LETITSNOW. The rest of the puzzle was also livened up by consistently playful, though still quite easy, clueing. The [Part(s) of a pound] double was something Bob Klahn would be proud of.